Pizza is a savory dish that originated in Italy. It is typically made with a wheat flour crust, tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese. However, there are many different types of pizza, and toppings can vary widely. Common toppings include pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and onions. Pizza is typically cooked in an oven, although it can also be fried or grilled. It is a popular dish around the world, and Americans consume more than 350 million pounds of it each year. Whether you like it plain or loaded with toppings, pizza is a delicious food that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The history of pizza is lengthy. Ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all ate flatbreads with toppings. (The latter consumed a variant like today’s focaccia and flavoured with herbs and oil.) But the Campania region of southwest Italy, which includes the city of Naples, is where pizza was first created in contemporary times.
Naples, a Greek colony that was established approximately 600 B.C., was a bustling maritime city in the 1700s and early 1800s. Although it was technically its own kingdom, the lazzaroni, or working poor, were well-known there. According to Carol Helstosky, author of Pizza: A Global History and associate professor of history at the University of Denver, “the closer you got to the bay, the more dense their population, and much of their living was done outdoors, sometimes in homes that were little more than a room.” Pizza: A Global History explores the history of pizza.
These Neapolitans needed cheap meals that they could eat quickly. Pizza, which can be purchased from street vendors or casual restaurants and is a flatbread with a variety of toppings, filled this requirement. Helstosky observes that “judgemental Italian authors frequently branded their eating practises ‘disgusting’.” The delectable toppings appreciated today, such as tomatoes, cheese, oil, anchovies, and garlic, were present on these early pizzas consumed by Naples’ underprivileged.
Italy became one country in 1861, and in 1889 Naples was visited by King Umberto I and Queen Margherita. According to legend, the visiting couple got tired of eating only French haute cuisine and requested a variety of pizzas from the city’s Pizzeria Brandi, which took over for the Da Pietro pizzeria, which had been established in 1760. Pizza mozzarella, a pie topped with soft white cheese, red tomatoes, and green basil, was the variation the queen preferred best. Perhaps it was no accident that her favourite pie had the Italian flag’s colours on it. The legend claims that from that point forward, that particular topping arrangement became known as pizza Margherita.
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The approval of Queen Margherita may have sparked a pizza mania that spread throughout all of Italy. However, pizza would not become widely popular in Italy outside of Naples until the 1940s.
However, immigrants from Naples who came to the United States started making copies of their dependable, crusty pizzas in New York and other American cities including Trenton, New Haven, Boston, Chicago, and St. Louis. The Neapolitans, like millions of other Europeans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, came for industrial employment; they weren’t looking to make a gastronomic statement. Though it didn’t take long for non-Italians and non-Neapolitans to become intrigued by the tastes and scents of pizza.
G. (for Gennaro) Lombardi’s, which opened on Spring Street in Manhattan in 1905 and was granted a pizza-selling permit, is one of the earliest known pizzerias in the United States. The meal was previously homemade or sold by unlicensed vendors. Despite no longer being at its original 1905 location, Lombardi’s “has the same oven as it did originally,” according to food critic and How Italian Food Conquered the World author John Mariani.
Debates over the finest slice in town can be heated, as any pizza fan knows. But Mariani credited three East Coast pizzerias with continuing to churn out pies in the century-old tradition: Totonno’s (Coney Island, Brooklyn, opened 1924); Mario’s (Arthur Avenue, the Bronx, opened 1919); and Pepe’s (New Haven, opened 1925).
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Pizza became increasingly popular in the United States as Italian-Americans moved from city to suburb, east to west, especially after World War II. It was becoming recognised as fast, enjoyable cuisine and was no longer considered a “ethnic” pleasure. Regional, unmistakably non-Neapolitan varieties started to emerge, eventually giving rise to California-style gourmet pizzas topped with everything from smoked salmon to bbq chicken.
Pizza made after World War II made it to Italy and beyond. Pizza caught on throughout the world, even in Italy, simply because it was an American invention, according to Mariani.
In roughly 60 different nations now, American franchises like Domino’s and Pizza Hut are successful abroad. Global pizza toppings can range from Gouda cheese in Curaçao to hardboiled eggs in Brazil, reflecting regional preferences.
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